Headteachers Letter – 14th May 2021
Dear parents and carers,
Although recent weather has not felt like the start of a summer term, we are approaching the “business” end of the academic year and are working hard on formal qualifications as well as considering how we support students with the crucial transitions which they will need to make successfully in order to be ready for success in September. All of this and some new Coronavirus guidance to begin from Monday! We do hope that students, parents and families will be able to enjoy some of the relaxations in the guidance as well as ensuring that we keep ourselves and each other as safe as possible.
Revised Guidance from 17th May 2021
You are likely to be aware that there are some changes in national guidance from Monday, full details of which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Our strategy for provision at Wollaston School throughout the pandemic has been to provide “the best education possible in the safest way possible” and we have followed the national guidance meticulously throughout the course of the pandemic. As part of wider relaxations from Monday, there are some limited but significant national changes for school operations, and I will detail below how we will implement these in practice, as well as indicating what will not change.
- Face Covering requirements for Transport: Face Coverings remain compulsory on both public transport and dedicated school transport (school buses). The only exception for this is for those students who are exempt. Both school transport providers and public transport providers will insist on students wearing face coverings and we will support them in promoting their use and taking action with any student who does not comply with these requirements.
- Face Coverings in School (students): The most significant change from Monday is that students are not required to wear face coverings in lessons or in communal areas of the school. The requirement to have a face covering when in school will now be paused (although of course all students who use transport will need to have a suitable face covering). We will continue to supervise students as they enter through the school gates, but they will no longer need to be wearing a face covering to be admitted into school.
- We recognise that this will feel like a significant change – and of course any student who wishes to continue to wear a face covering will be permitted to do so.
- As per the guidance, we also know that any local increase in cases could necessitate a local re-introduction of the requirement for face coverings, so it is probably too early to describe the changes as anything other than a pause in the current requirements.
- Face Coverings in School (staff): The guidance is now that it is not recommended for staff and adult visitors to wear face coverings in lessons or outdoors, but it remains guidance that adults should wear face coverings in corridors and communal areas when social distancing cannot be maintained. We will of course adhere to the national guidance – and as with students, if some members of staff wish to continue to wear face coverings in all circumstances, they are permitted to do so.
- Educational trips and Visits: We will of course be cautious, but we are now able to begin to plan a resumption of some of our extra curricular activity which has been so badly missed in the last fourteen months. The Duke of Edinburgh Award will begin expeditions shortly and we look forward to providing further updates on a variety of opportunities in the weeks ahead.
- The Bubble System: Strict implementation of the geographical bubble system remains, and there is no change to the Geography and systems that are currently in place. We are hoping for restrictions to ease when (and if) there are further changes on the 21st June 2021. However, in the meantime, we continue with all practical procedures which have worked so well in terms of maintaining the integrity of each bubble.
- Information for parents can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/what-parents-and-carers-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/what-parents-need-to-know-about-early-years-providers-schools-and-colleges-during-covid-19
- As ever, if there is anything that you would like to know, discuss or question about our Covid-19 safety measures, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
As notified last week, we do have two current active Coronavirus cases in the student population. One in the Sixth Form bubble and the other in the Year 8 bubble. Although symptoms have been present, both students are recovering and we have sent all best wishes. There are a number of Year 8 students self-isolating who will return to Wollaston next week.
The lateral flow testing programme continues as planned for staff and students, and we recommend testing on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. We continue to send out further test kits as our schedules indicate supplies will run low, but for any enquires, please contact Jade Fitzhugh FitzhughJ@wollaston-school.net who will be able to provide further support.
Please also be reminded of the guidance below regarding the two different types of testing.
SYMPTOMATIC TESTING: If you or your child has any of the Coronavirus symptoms – a continuous cough, a high temperature or a change or loss of smell or taste – you must self isolate immediately along with your household and book a PCR test. Do not use a Lateral Flow Test in these circumstances.
ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING: The lateral flow tests are for use when individuals do not display any coronavirus symptoms. The mass testing programme is designed to capture cases of Covid-19 which are present without symptoms. A reminder that is a positive lateral flow test is received, you must inform the school and book a confirmatory PCR test.
In the case of any positive test (LFT or PCR) please report this to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible and we will be able to provide further advice.
Parents of students in Years 11 and 13 will already be aware of the plans for the awarding of qualifications this year and we appreciate how hard students have been working to produce a broad range of evidence to inform our grading decisions. We are now into the final weeks of this process and although we are missing the formal exams season, there is a great sense of purpose and focus as students complete their examination courses.
This is of course new to all of us, and although we are meticulous in following all of the technical guidance, I am aware that these documents can make for fairly dense reading for parents and students!
Helpfully, Ofqual have now published a useful guide for students regarding the entire process – and this brings together numerous pieces of guidance in a fairly easily digestible form. The link to the document is here and I hope that this makes the national process as clear as possible.
Although of course it is completely impossible to make predictions about next year, it is right that the Government are currently giving consideration to how students currently in Years 10 and 12 can be supported to achieve the qualifications which they deserve, despite the disruption of the pandemic. You may be aware that various options are under consideration – but crucially the assumption is that a formal exam series will run next summer, although perhaps with some modifications. The important message for the time being is that students in Years 10 and 12 should continue to work as hard as possible on the planned content and assessments, and teachers will continue to deliver all programmes of study as originally scheduled. We will of course keep parents and students up to date with any national decisions, but these are not expected to be finalised until next year.
Free School Meals
We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Local Authority to issue Free School Meals vouchers during the May half term holiday, as we have done throughout all holiday periods. Eligible families will be contacted with details of how to claim vouchers and the system is the same one which we used during the Easter break. If parents do have any queries or would like further information, please contact Ms Francis Franciss@wollaston-school.net
Thank you for your continuing support to ensure that our high expectations of behaviour at Wollaston School are maintained and improved. Your input at home can be of great benefit in ensuring that students arrive at school in correct uniform, well equipped, well rested and ready to give of their best for the day ahead. We are having a particular focus on ensuring that a high standard of work is completed in every lesson, and we do appreciate parents discussing work undertaken in school and reviewing exercise books, particularly during this period in which in-class monitoring remains difficult because of coronavirus restrictions. We will of course continue to deal with any serious breaches of the school’s behaviour policy decisively to ensure that our school remains a calm, positive and respectful place of learning and work.
Thank you as always for your continued support of Wollaston School and I hope that you enjoy a relaxing weekend.
Mr James Birkett